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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Diane Ditzler Frossard

“The Searchers”

By Derrick White

John Ford’s “The Searchers” (1956) was my dad’s favorite film. It is a milestone Hollywood western, a Technicolor marvel with shades of emotional melancholy, tackling the myth of manifest destiny with a man’s horseback quest to find and recover his remaining family. I will always associate this western and horses with my dad. He raised horses throughout his life more often than not. One of my earliest memories is my dad giving me a horse drawing lesson starting with two circles and simple shapes.

So, there is an instantaneous wistfulness when I see the exceptional work of local artist Diane Ditzler Frossard. This artist works in a variety of media including oils, watercolor, graphite, and charcoal. She has an extraordinary capacity to capture the essence of natural light on her realistic subjects and allows quick expressive marks and brushstrokes to build and become greater than the sum of their parts. A captured realism created from magically expressive movements leaves the viewer to become the searcher and reap the rewards of taking a double take and examining with a closer eye Frossard’s amazing artwork.

“It is gratifying when someone is drawn to one of these paintings, saying it reminds them of something familiar to them,” the artist stated. “As early as I can remember, I have had a passion for two things: art and horses. My father, an avid horseman, introduced me to horses at an early age, and they have always been a part of my life. I also loved drawing or doing anything related to art in my spare time. My mother briefly took an oil painting class. I thought her painting was wonderful, but she felt otherwise and didn’t continue. I asked if I could use her leftover paints and canvas. Although I had no idea what I was doing I had fun creating my first oil painting (of my paint horse) when I was about 10 years old.”

Diane Frossard has a degree in geology, not the typical path for an aspiring full-time artist. She knew she wanted to pursue art, but only painting what interested her and not have the pressure of having to support herself financially so she, and her husband, both worked as geologists. They moved their family to Tyler and established a ranch. Their horses are like family members, pampered, occasionally ridden, and often the subjects in her paintings.

“I still have the offspring of one of my childhood horses. He is now 33, and we have grown up together,” Frossard said.

Frossard is a Master Signature Member of the Outdoor Painter’s Society, a national plein air (painting outdoor subjects in the open air) group featuring the annual exhibition, Plein Air Southwest. Many of her landscapes are produced specifically for this exhibition. These landscapes are fairly small because they were created on location and had to be executed within a specific time frame before the light changed too much.

She says her inspiration usually comes when she is not looking for it: while feeding horses, doing chores, or taking walks. The lighting and time of day are crucial to making a seemingly mundane subject come alive. Thirteen of Frossard’s landscape paintings were featured at the Tyler Museum of Art in 2015 in the “Reflections of East Texas” exhibition.

Artists search for guidance. With the support of her husband, Diane has attended and learned from many different workshops.

“Bruce Peil was my mentor and introduced me to plein air painting. Paintings from life are bold, fresh, and immediate small works of art. I highly recommend Bruce Peil who works and teaches out of his renovated barn/studio, in Athens, to anyone looking for a good foundation in landscape painting,” the artist suggested.

Artists search for the sublime. “The older I get, the stronger my desire is to take the ordinary things I see in my life and bring forth something unique and poetic from it. The reference is a jumping off point. The challenge is being able to tap into your muse and bring out unique, mystical, and sometimes fleeting images from your mind. For me, it is most often done through the use of light,” Frossard said.

Artists search for development. Solitary practice is important and experiencing frustrating failures helps one grow as an artist.

“My breakthroughs and improvements most often come during those independent, alone times. I actually learn the most just from closely studying the work of master artists and staring at paintings in museums and online, how they solved problems, their compositions, brushwork, etc,” Frossard said.

Frossard is searching to give back to her community in a variety of ways. “In gratitude for all who have shared their insight and expertise with me, I like to share what I have learned,” she said. Frossard has been volunteering for a couple of art classes at St. Gregory School for 15 years.

Other projects include the “Hope” column for the “Pillars of Hope” mural project under the Gentry St. Bridge where homeless and others gather for church. She is currently working on a painting of the Tyler Square, which will be offered through auction at “The Art of Transformation” fundraiser on November 16th. All proceeds from the sale of this painting will benefit the Highway 80 Rescue Mission’s Triumph Village, a new housing project and recovery program for the homeless.

Artists search for satisfaction. Diane stated, “Non-artists often don’t realize, unless you are married to one, a lot of hard work, frustration, planning, and years of experience go into a good painting that looks simple and easily executed. It is hard to make it look effortless. It is not all fun, requires problem solving, and can be stressful at times, but tremendously worth it. It never gets any easier, because you are constantly working at a higher level; the more you learn and improve, the more your critical eye is ahead of your current ability. It can be frustrating at times when people don’t understand the value of original art: the expense of materials, canvas, paints, brushes, etc., the time involved, plus the years of experience.”

For more info about Diane Frossard go to DianeFrossard.com. Her work can currently be seen at Artist Showplace in Dallas and Valerosa in Tyler.

For anyone interested in figure drawing, Tyler has a life drawing group on Thursday evenings 6-9pm for $20 at Brick Street Studios, 1000 Augusta hosted by Russell Belue. For more info email beluesky2015@gmail.com.

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Art

15th Annual Life in Tyler Photography Contest Now Seeking Entries

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The City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department is seeking entries for the 2020 Life in Tyler photography contest. Entries will be accepted from March 2nd to 10th.

Photos will be exhibited at the Rose Garden Center during the 2020 Azalea Trails, March 21st through April 5th. Ribbons and prizes will be awarded for the Best of Show entry as well as first, second and third place for each of the 12 categories.

Registration forms are available online at TylerParksandRec.com, at the Parks and Recreation office at 2000 W. Front St. or at the Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Dr.

For more information, please call Debbie Isham, special events/recreation manager, at (903) 531-1214 or email disham@tylertexas.com.

About the Tyler Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation Department provides oversight for the City’s open spaces, athletic complexes and recreationally oriented programs for the use of all residents and visitors. Staff members diligently maintain a proactive maintenance program for over 26 park areas including oversight of maintenance activities on 23 playgrounds, traffic islands and medians, landscaping at City buildings, cemeteries and the downtown square. They also provide for the propagation of seasonal and perennial plant materials utilized in the Parks beautification programs, as well as the maintenance of trees in the Parks system. The mission of the Tyler Parks and Recreation Department is to improve the quality of life for our residents and guests by providing superior parks, cemeteries, recreational and tourism opportunities. Our vision is to provide residents and visitors with attractive outdoor spaces that are well maintained while continuing to be fiscally responsible. Learn more at www.TylerParksandRec.com.

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Art

Bloom Where You are Planted, Buy Local

stretford tyler tx

By Derrick White

Glasstire is an online art magazine covering topics in Texas contemporary art. They produce thoughtful art criticism and are the journal of record for our extensive Texas visual art community. The website’s name is a reference to the glass tire sculptures of East Texas native Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008), who was from Port Arthur. Glasstire holds the belief that great art can come from anywhere. In the last few years the website has expanded into the realm of podcasts. In their podcast titled Art Dirt: The Personalities of Texas’ Art Cities, Publisher Brandon Zech and Editor-in-chief Christina Rees discuss what makes each of Texas’ distinct art regions tick and the potential for success for visual artists. 

Rees was the juror for the University of Texas at Tyler’s 34th Annual International Exhibition and witnessed some of the dynamic art aspects happening here. As you might imagine, the bulk of the podcast is devoted to the larger visual art market cities of Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston; but they also talk about the panhandle, West Texas, southern border cities, and East Texas gets a shout out towards the end.  

Christina states, “What happens if you go out to East Texas, with a place like Tyler, is you’ve got the universities, you’ve got schools, you’ve got faculty. They are there to stay. They make art and they are bringing up students through their programs and it’s sort of a ‘bloom where you are planted’ thing. Start your own art scenes. Have an art community, busy making work and making it for its own audience – you know, those aren’t necessarily places to move to if you don’t already live there but if you are there, there is a way to make something, however small, feel quite thriving and to have dialogue and to have a community, an actual working community.” 

Brandon Zech responds, “Or maybe they are places to move to depending on if you have this really cool idea as long as you can get local support and you can band together with people who also think your idea is awesome, especially if you are moving into a community you don’t know. But the real crux of this: it only takes one person to really change and make an impact on an art scene, be it in Tyler or in Brownsville, or really even in Houston.” 

Rees concludes, “Once you reach a certain age you will have friends who have moved to big art centers, New York or Los Angeles, and have burned out. They got up there and they had to work two full-time jobs and they stopped making their art because they were too busy making a living and paying rent. They want to come to Texas, or come back to Texas, or figure out a way to be able and have a studio and make work and live comfortably and be creative. I don’t think being completely stressed out by having to make a living all the time and not getting to make your work is necessarily ennobling. I don’t think it’s creatively inspiring, and I think this whole character building up exercise of moving to New York City and living in a (dump) and working sixty hours weeks and trying to get some traction is not necessarily the only way to go anymore. There are a lot of different art worlds and you can make your own art world. Things are changing rapidly.”

Things are changing rapidly. That statement struck a sympathetic chord with me and reiterated a belief I stated in a podcast interview with ETX Creatives founders Addie Moore and Lisa Horlander. “I like what is changing in East Texas and in our visual arts community and the arts community in general. It’s got legs and a driving force it hasn’t had before. East Texas, in general, is changing for the better and I think there are more opportunities coming for visual artists in our region than before. Sixteen years ago, if I had an aspiring visual art student in class, the best advice I could give them was … move. Go to Dallas, go to Austin, go to Houston, go to Abilene, all these different communities supporting their arts so much better than we used to. I really believe this is changing now better than it ever has been, and if we could introduce some of the money here in East Texas to some of our local creatives and get it all off the ground, then I think the sky’s the limit for what is coming in the future,” I declared. 

We are at critical mass for visual art. We have excellent regional museums, universities, and colleges with inspiring art programs filled with professional artists, and we have amazing emerging student artists who are sticking around and building supportive, innovative communities. We have support from new and established locally owned businesses and civic communes throughout East Texas giving opportunities to local visual artists. What we need is collector financial support, people willing to invest in budding talents here at home. Start buying original, local art.

There are many reasons original art brings fulfillment to those who collect. When purchasing art, you may think about décor and how it will fit into your home. Are you looking for an exciting piece, something comfortable and welcoming, or are you looking for something striking out as a room’s focal point? Whatever original art you choose, you will eventually find yourself enchanted by how it becomes a part of your home and a part of your life. By seeking out and supporting emerging artists, collectors may find the pieces they have bought increase in value as emerging artists become established. 

Owning original art enriches your life and has the potential to make you happy. You enjoy the satisfaction of having a good eye for what fits your personal aesthetic. You get the gratification of having helped and encouraged a local creative who may have depended on your purchase as sustenance they needed to keep going. You have added to the cultural enrichment of our region. You own one of a kind art not existing anywhere else in the world. 

Writer’s note: The Art Guys, a collaborative performance art duo based in Houston, sadly lost Michael Galbreth, who died in October 2019. Galbreth was married to Rainey Knudson, the founder of Glasstire. Condolences.

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Michael Brundidge: Inside the Artist’s Studio

ben wheeler

Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy

By Derrick White

“You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it,” exclaims local artist Michael Brundidge. Michael is a cheerful, energetic, friendly, and laid back personality you are more than likely to encounter during your next visit to True Vine Brewing Company, where he works. His artwork may also be seen there, perhaps being displayed in a one-night, pop-up art exhibition or permanently installed in spots around the brewery. Michael’s art is primarily collages. This is something I personally value because about half of my own artwork is in the medium of collage and I appreciate it when I see it and when I see it done well.

The word collage comes from a French word meaning “to glue” and it is a prevalent and accessible visual art technique, where the composition is created from grouping different colors, forms, and images and creating a new, and sometimes very different, whole. Collages may include drawings and sketches, magazine and newspaper clippings, ribbon, paint, handmade papers, text lettering or phrases, photographs, prints, and other found objects selected and attached to paper, canvas, wood panels, or other supports. The ancestry of the process of collage dates back hundreds of years. 

Brundidge explains, “My main focus in style lately is mixed media collage artwork. Outer space has been the most prevalent theme and inspiration in my current series “Space Is The Place.” I like to mingle Pop Art, Surrealism, and a splash of Neo-Dadaism (an absurdist combination of daily life and art using playfulness, iconoclasm, and appropriation).” He goes on to add, “I use plywood as my canvases (or supports) and acrylic paint for the backgrounds. I love how the acrylic soaks into the plywood. I think the textures really visually pop creating a combination matte and glossy finish to my backgrounds. I use clippings and cutouts of various images found in old magazines from the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s. I really enjoy the textures and color palettes used in those decades. I juxtapose images of people, places, and things I find interesting onto my painted backgrounds. I like to call it manual Photoshop. The images most often reoccurring throughout my pieces are large ominous hands, planets, women, and astronauts.” After Michael creates his collages he then finishes them by creating a custom frame for each individual piece using weathered or repurposed wood, which adds to the charm and content of the work.

Other than elementary school art classes, Michael Brundidge does not have any formal training in visual art. He is a self-taught artist, sometimes referred to as an outsider or folk artist for the unique qualities of style and practice. When making art to make art, there is no critique deadline and no teacher to please. This is one of the open-ended concepts I love about creating art: the fact you can just decide to do it. If you feel inspired to start making, sharing, and selling art, you can put a sign in your yard today and become just as much of an artist as anyone else. No degree or certification, training, or experience required. This does not mean you will automatically have any success, be any good, or make anything interesting, but you might. You get to express yourself and your unique human experience to the rest of us however you feel compelled to do so. This concept applies to everyone, of any age, of any skill set, and by any means. You cannot do this with most other occupations. You cannot decide to randomly put a sign in your yard and start practicing dentistry, for example. Or as Michael Brundidge puts it, “You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it.”

What inspired Michael down the path of pursuing art was, as he states, “Honestly, it was loneliness and alienation. I know it sounds dismal and depressing but I was truly hard-pressed to do something. I did not feel as though I had much of an identity. Making art brought back vitality, confidence, and purpose in my life.” Adding, “It has developed my trait of persistence. Art has given me the will to continue on despite ridicule, hang-ups, and depravity.” What Michael finds frustrating about being an artist is, in his words, “Exclusivity and competition. I disagree and do not participate in any art based competitions. Art is extremely subjective. Critics and the upper crust held in high regard can make or break an artist. Anyone can make art. I dare and laud them to do so. I truly believe art is a party and everyone is invited.  Make art to make art. Elitism is too common in the art world. The idea that money talks and has unquestionable influence in the art world is a fallacy. Every artist matters and all content must be considered.” So everyone could, and I believe should make art. The process is emotionally healing and therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in playing the game of the big money buying and selling art world, which is an economy just like every other commodity-driven economy in the world. Make art by you for you, and let the rest fall where it may whether you are a joker, a lover, or a sinner.

Speaking of jokers, Michael finds inspiration in the works of artist Ray Johnson, who was primarily a collage and correspondence artist. He was described as New York’s most famous unknown artist. Michael exclaims, “He was relentless and continuously persistent in his artwork. He was a recluse staying vigilant and persistent in his process. His media ebbed and flowed at his inclination. Johnson was a prankster in expectation. His content was his own and he did not sway his ideology and process. He even determined and called the shots when it came time for him to leave this world.” On January 13, 1995, Ray Johnson dove off a bridge and then backstroked out to sea in an apparent suicide or perhaps final performance art piece. Strange aspects of Johnson’s death involved the number 13 (date; his age, 67 (6+7=13); his motel room number 247 (2+4+7=13) … and the number of letters in “Me Space Cowboy”). Learn more about Johnson in the documentary film “How to Draw a Bunny.” Learn more about Brundidge by going to True Vine and having a beer.

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